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Older Americans less likely to get the vaccine in low-income communities, CDC report says

The Last Mile Vaccine Delivery service began in February in Chelsea for residents who have transportation issues.
The Last Mile Vaccine Delivery service began in February in Chelsea for residents who have transportation issues.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Areas in the United States with lower COVID-19 vaccination rates among older adults also have higher rates of “social vulnerabilities” such as poverty and a lack of Internet access, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC offered the information in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Tuesday.

“After the first 3.5 months of the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination program, 79.1% of adults aged ≥65 years had received ≥1 dose, with higher vaccination initiation among men,” the report said. “Counties with lower vaccination initiation rates had higher percentages of older adults with social vulnerabilities.”

The report defined such vulnerabilities as being without a computer or mobile phone connected to the Internet; having a computer but no Internet access; living alone; having an annual income below the federal poverty level; and identifying as a person other than solely non-Hispanic white.

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“Monitoring demographic and social factors affecting COVID-19 vaccine access for older adults and prioritizing efforts to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine are needed to ensure high coverage among this group,” the report said.

According to the document, Massachusetts vaccinated 87 percent of its 65-and-over population between Dec. 14 and April 10.

Among the 65-74 age cohort during that period, the report said, another New England state led the way: our neighbors to the north in New Hampshire.

“Among persons aged 65–74 years, vaccination initiation rates ranged from 66.8% (Alabama) to 99.9% (New Hampshire), and among persons aged ≥75 years, ranged from 69.1% (Mississippi) to 99.9% (New Hampshire),” the report said.

Vermont also did particularly well vaccinating older adults during that period, according to the CDC.

“New Hampshire and Vermont had the two highest overall vaccination initiation rates among older adults,” the report said.

According to the CDC, the states besides Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire that vaccinated at least 80 percent of their 65-and-up populations between Dec. 14 and April 10 were California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, and Wisconsin.

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President Biden last week set a goal of at least partly vaccinating 70 percent of all adults in the US by July 4. People are deemed fully vaccinated once they get two shots from Pfizer or Moderna, spaced weeks apart, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson dose.

And while vaccinating older Americans was the priority at the outset since seniors generally experience more severe health problems when they catch COVID-19, younger kids will soon join the queue.

The FDA on Monday cleared Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for adolescents 12 to 15 years old, enabling millions of more Americans to get the two-shot regimen.

Material from the New York Times and prior Globe stories was used in this report.




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.